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Chicago-area officials tell man he can't hold 'slumber parties' for the homeless during extreme cold

Chicago-area leaders and police threatened to condemn a man's home after he let a group of homeless people stay in his basement during single-digit temperatures in December. The homeless people were forced to leave, but the man said he’s working to find other options for taking care of the homeless.\n(Smileus/Getty Images)

As temperatures dropped into the single digits, a suburban Chicago man tried to help the homeless people in his neighborhood by letting them sleep in his basement.

But when city officials and police heard about the "slumber party," they arrived on his doorstep with a warrant and threatened to condemn his home.

What happened?

Greg Schiller of Elgin told WMAQ-TV that he set up a group of cots in his unfinished basement to provide the homeless people with a warm bed, something to eat, and a place to watch movies — all things he figured would classify the sleepovers as "slumber parties."

Schiller let them stay there during extremely cold weather in December.

“I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them,” Schiller said, adding that drugs or alcohol were not prohibited.

Schiller said he thought his basement met city sleeping code regulations. But it did not.

“They shut me down and said I have 24 hours to return my basement to storage and take down — I have several cots with sleeping bags for everybody – or they’ll condemn the house,” he told WMAQ on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the city confirmed that Schiller was given 24 hours to clear out his basement or face “additional enforcement action to compel the removal of the unlawful basement sleeping area,” according to the report.

Code inspectors determined the basement ceiling was too low and the windows were too high and small to allow an exit.

"While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community, Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and insufficient exits in the event of a fire," Molly Center, a city spokesperson, said in a prepared statement.

Had he had other problems?

Schiller had other run-ins with the city in his attempts to help the homeless, WMAQ reported.

Last year, Schiller let a group of homeless people stay in his garage. A homeless man with a heart condition became ill and was taken away by emergency crews. Later, city leaders told Schiller the homeless could no longer stay in his garage, according to reports.

Officials have previously pointed to other alleged violations at the home, which is owned by Schiller’s girlfriend. Among them were a broken window, a fold-up trailer and a portable toilet for the homeless people.

Schiller said he’s working to find other options for taking care of the homeless he now knows so well.

“I’m trying to help these people get out of the cold,” Schiller told WMAQ. “There’s not a lot of help for them as far as places to lay their heads.”


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